NOAA 2000-R111
Contact: Gordon Helm


Washington, D.C.– Commerce Secretary William M. Daley on Monday made effective the plan to rebuild the spiny dogfish stock off the Northeastern United States. Pursuant to the law, the secretary also is moving to establish a quota for the upcoming fishing year that begins the rebuilding process.

The spiny dogfish plan was developed and adopted by the Mid-Atlantic and the New England Fishery Management Councils. It is one of only a handful of fisheries that have joint council jurisdiction. The plan calls for a reduced quota for the fishing year, which begins May 1. However, the Mid-Atlantic Council has endorsed a quota of 2.9 million pounds while the New England Fishery Management Council ultimately recommended a quota of approximately 14 million pounds.

"I'm disappointed by the councils' inability to reach a joint decision on a quota," said Daley. "I understand and share the concerns of affected fishermen that rebuilding this shark population means sharp reductions in the fishery, at least for now. I will continue to press the councils to see if they can reach agreement to minimize the economic impacts to fishermen and their communities, while maintaining an effective conservation strategy."

The secretary had delayed implementation of the plan to allow the two fishery management councils to reach agreement on the annual quota for the fishing year that starts on May 1. Because the two councils could not agree, the secretary must resolve the differences before the beginning of the fishing season. Daley announced today that he will take action to establish a quota of 4.0 million pounds. This amount is within the parameters of the plan and will allow rebuilding. The secretary will also establish trip limits for spiny dogfish of 600 pounds for the first half of the fishery (May 1 – Oct. 30) and a 300 pound trip limit for the second half of the fishery (Nov. 1 – April 30).

The secretary also announced that he will make 500,000 pounds available for an experimental fishery that targets males, rather than females as in the present fishery.

"The population can't support a directed fishery, at least at this time," said NOAA Fisheries director Penny Dalton. "This quota will end the targeted fishing on dogfish and is designed to reduce the level of bycatch in other fisheries."

The different trip limits are designed to equalize the burden on fishermen in the two regions because it is based on their historic harvest levels. The spiny dogfish fishery occurs primarily in New England waters during the first half of the fishing season and in the Mid-Atlantic during the second half. The New England council had proposed a 7,000 pound trip limit, while the Mid-Atlantic council had suggested a 300 pound limit.

"The aim of the experimental fishery is to see if it is feasible to better utilize spiny dogfish caught as bycatch,"said NOAA Fisheries' Dalton. "I also want to make sure that we use this opportunity to improve our understanding of this valuable resource." Among the goals of an experimental fishery would be to develop gear and fishing methods that target males rather than females, and that reduce bycatch.

The plan implemented Monday includes permit and reporting requirements, a process for adjusting plan measures and dividing the annual quota between two seasons, and a rebuilding schedule. A separate action will establish the annual quota and trip limits for the fishing year beginning May 1.

Dogfish are a small shark, with a life span of more than 35 years. Females mature at about 12 years of age and gestate young for nearly two years, producing litters of 6 to 18 pups. Females become larger than males and have been the target of the fishery for that reason. Since the targeted fishery began in the early 1990s, the population of females has declined to about 25% of its size in the 1980s. The market opened for U.S. dogfish in the late 1980s, owing to a rapid decline of the European dogfish stocks because of a targeted fishery.